US Labor Department's OSHA cites Northeastern Wisconsin Wood
Products for 18 safety and health violations; fines total nearly $379,000
Company has history of noncompliance with worker protection standards
POUND, Wis. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products in Pound for a total of 18 alleged health and safety, including 13 willful, violations. The company is facing $378,620 in proposed penalties following a January inspection.
"Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products has a history of failing to comply with OSHA standards. The company has yet to abate many violations cited in a previous inspection," said Michael Connors, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "When employers knowingly ignore safety and health requirements, they are unduly placing their workers at risk for illnesses and injuries, and that is unacceptable."
Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products was first inspected by OSHA in 2006 and issued eight citations. A follow-up inspection in 2007 found that most of the originally cited hazards remained unabated. Following the May 2010 issuance of a secretary of labor petition for summary enforcement, the company was given 30 days to work with a Wisconsin state consultation service to abate the violations. The consultation service is alleged to have ended the abatement process due to a lack of cooperation by the company. Many of the originally cited violations once again were cited during the January 2011 inspection.
Five willful health violations involve failing to implement a hearing conservation program for employees whose noise exposure exceeded 85 decibels; perform and certify a hazard assessment of the workplace; develop and implement a hazard communication program to include training for employees; maintain copies of material data sheets; and provide appropriate eye protection for workers. Additionally, the company allowed unsanitary conditions to pose serious fire and explosion hazards by letting sawdust accumulate in a pile of approximately 4 feet by the outer wall and several inches on horizontal surfaces such as pipes, wall supports and ledges.
Eight willful safety violations involve a lack of machine guarding on belts, pulleys, gears and band saw blades; a lack of guardrails; unguarded open-sided floors and platforms presenting a fall hazard greater than 4 feet; not using electrical equipment correctly; and not effectively closing openings in boxes and cabinets. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. Proposed penalties for the 13 willful citations total $360,800.
The company also was cited for one repeat safety violation, with a proposed penalty of $7,920, for failing to provide potable water for drinking. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
Three serious safety violations, with proposed penalties of $9,900, include failing to periodically inspect energy control procedures, use group lockout devices and train employees in electrical safety. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
One other-than-serious violation, with no monetary penalty, was cited for failing to provide an illuminated exit sign. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards can call OSHA's Appleton District Office at 920-734-4521. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.